By some distance the least impressive museum I have ever visited is the Tomato Museum on the island of Guernsey (mind you I haven’t yet been to Barometer World in Okehampton but some day, just you mark my words, I will).
I think I was about fourteen when we went, so you can imagine the impression a tomato-based attraction would have made on my adolescent mind. That’s right, none whatsoever. I don’t even like tomatoes. Nonetheless I found myself unaccountably reminded of it yesterday, as dusk settled sadly on Bristol’s GMT-darkened commute.
How to describe? I could mention the feebleness of the displays, the battered, uninformative signs purporting to enlighten the public on the practicalities of tomato-growing, the general dirt, the ill-kept greenhouses. The inadequate refreshment area. The toilets. The random additional attractions, including a plastic Wendy House shaped like a big shoe and a ragged huddle of obsolete arcade machines.
But merely listing these things cannot capture the feel of the place. So try to imagine, if you will, that you are a bright tomato-red balloon blown up for a jolly party, but the party is over, the marquee is packed away, the empty bottles are stacked and reeking, and you have been left to wrinkle and deflate in the rubble-strewn car park. And it’s raining, and there will be no more parties ever again. That is the Guernsey Tomato Museum.
When Brit Jnr is a bit older I will of course take her to fun places such as Alton Towers and Disneyland and whatnot, but I think I should also insist on a visit to the Guernsey Tomato Museum, if it still exists.
“Life isn’t just Disneyland and Alton Towers”, I will tell her. “Look around you, Brit Jnr. Look around you and absorb this and think on it. This too is real. This too is life.”
“Can I have a pound for the machines?” she will say.